Nurses to strike for two days in December over pay

Nurses are to hold two days of strike action next month in a dramatic escalation of the pay row raging across the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced its members will stage their first ever national walk out on December 15 and 20.

The RCN said it was calling strikes after the UK Government turned down its offer of formal, detailed negotiations as an alternative to industrial action.

The strikes will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RCN said it will announce which particular NHS employers will be striking next week, when formal notifications are submitted.

It is not clear how the strikes will affect NHS services in the West Midlands.

While nurses at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital voted for strike action, not enough voted at hospital trusts in the Black Country to make a strike legally binding.

Likewise, while nurses at Shropshire Community Health Trust, the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, near Oswestry, and Powys Teaching Health Board voted for strike action, it appears not enough voted to make a strike legally binding at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.

In Scotland, the RCN has paused announcing strike action after the government there reopened NHS pay negotiations.

Earlier this month, the RCN announced that nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers across the UK had voted to take strike action over pay and patient safety.

The RCN said that despite a pay rise of around £1,400 awarded in the summer, experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time.

"My offer of formal negotiations was declined and, instead, ministers have chosen strike action. They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give patients the care they deserve.”

The RCN said the economic argument for paying nursing staff fairly was clear when billions of pounds was being spent on agency staff to plug workforce gaps.

It added that in the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, with poor pay contributing to staff shortages across the UK, which it warned was affecting patient safety.

There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone, said the RCN.

The RCN maintains that surveys have shown huge public support for nurses receiving a bigger pay rise, as well as the right to take industrial action.

Other health unions are also balloting workers for industrial action, while ambulance staff in Scotland are due to walk out on Monday.

A ballot among hundreds of thousands of Unison members closes on Friday, and among Unite’s NHS members next week.

Midwives and physiotherapists are also voting on strikes, while a ballot of junior doctors opens in the new year.

Health unions have been warning for months that workers are quitting in huge numbers over pay and low morale, leading to staff shortages in hospitals and other parts of the NHS.

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